Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Paula McLain explores the life and loves of the infamous Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun

Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Source: Best Health magazine, September 2015

With her imaginative piece of historical fiction, Circling the Sun, Paula McLain dives into the world of real-life heroine Beryl Markham, whose notoriety stretched beyond her record as the first woman to guide an aircraft across the Atlantic, in 1936. While Beryl’s historic takeoff and landing act as triumphant bookends, Circling the Sun is far more interested in the life and loves that came before that.

Raised in Kenya, Beryl’s earliest memories capture the coming of age of a strong-willed tomboy marked by fearless encounters with the unforgiving landscape and wildlife of Africa. Abandoned by her mother and left with her father, a racehorse trainer, Beryl lives for adventure. Spending her days exploring and hunting, the young Beryl dreams of a future as a warrior, gender roles be damned.

The 20th century, however, has different ideas, and Beryl enters an admirable life of revolutionary protest against the constraints placed on the women of her time. Fighting for her right to love freely, train prize-winning horses and take flight over an unconquered ocean, Beryl provides McLain with a protagonist overflowing with character. Told through even and evocative prose dappled with cinematic descriptions of Beryl’s beloved Africa, Circling the Sun profiles an unforgettable trendsetter whose numerous accomplishments are well worth another look.

Circling the Sun, Bond Street Books, $32

Let’s discuss

Delve deeper with these book club questions:
1. Throughout the book, Beryl’s romantic choices conclude in disappointment. Compared with other popular strong-willed heroines, how do her opinions on love and fulfillment differ?
2. Are we just as free as Beryl to make similar romantic choices, or are relationships still driven by societal pressures?
3. One of the key friendships is between Beryl and Kibii. How do their worlds interact? Can they coexist?

For more book suggestions, visit Reader’s Digest Book Club.